English Championship Preview

Following a week-long break due to international football, the Football League Championship returns with a full set of fixtures set to take place on Friday and Saturday. The tie of the round will see Brighton and Hove Albion welcome table-topping Burnley to the Falmer Stadium. Elsewhere, Cardiff City and Derby County go head to head while Rotherham will look to continue their charge up the log as the take on Leeds at the New York Stadium.

Friday 1 April

24/10 QPR | Draw 21/10 | Middlesbrough 12/10 (20:45)

We kick off this week’s action with an intriguing fixture between QPR and Middlesbrough. The Londoners will be desperate to claim all three points in a bid to keep their faint hopes of promotion alive. They’ve only lost once in their last six games and sit 11 points behind Sheffield Wednesday in sixth place. They will need their wealth of attacking talent to come to the fore against a Boro side who have been miserly in defence this season, conceding just 23 goals in 37 games. Boro have been in freefall over the last few months. After looking like certain automatic promotion candidates, the results simply dried up. They were embarrassingly beaten 2-0 by struggling Charlton Athletic two weeks ago before bouncing back with an excellent 1-0 home win over fellow promotion chasers Hull City. The international break would have done the Teesiders a world of good and allowed them to re-focus their efforts on the league. That said, I’m struggling to pick a winner here. QPR have looked good over the last few rounds of league action, take them on the Double Chance at 6/10.

Saturday 2 April

27/20 Brighton | 2/1 | Burnley 22/10 (13:30)

The match of the weekend will see second-placed Brighton and Hove Albion take on log leaders Burnley in what should be a cracker of a match. The Seagulls have been in fine fettle over the last few months following a festive period which saw them slip out of the top six going eight games without a win in December and January. Since then, however, they’ve won nine and drawn three games. A win on Saturday will seem them close the gap on their opponents to just one point with six matches to play. Burnley have been almost unstoppable this season and look destined for a return to the big time come next May. They’ve been excellent up front with Andre Gray banging in goals for fun with Joey Barton pulling the strings behind him. You have to go way back to Boxing Day for when the Clarets were last defeated in a league match when they went down 3-0 to a then in-form Hull City. It’s always insanely difficult to call these top-of-the-table clashes. There is a ton of attacking talent on display here, though, so the Both Teams To Score: Yes market seems a wise bet at 21/20 – climb on!

21/20 Blackburn | 43/20 | Preston 28/10 (13:30)

Another season in the Championship it is for Blackburn Rovers then. The Lancashire club have failed to make an impact on the league this season and even flirted briefly with relegation before trudging their way back up into mid-table obscurity. The side have been decent without really setting hearts racing this season. They’ve definitely lost a lot of their bite following the exits of Jordan Rhodes to Middlesbrough and the departure of Rudy Gestede to Aston Villa. Preston North End still have it all to play for as they’re one of the five teams looking up at sixth place on the log with longing in their eyes. They will need to improve drastically, however, if they’re to turn their dream into reality. They needed a late equaliser against QPR last time out after scraping a 2-1 win over rock-bottom Bolton Wanderers. The home win is tipped at 21/20.

14/10 Wolves | 9/4 | Ipswich Town 19/10 (16:00)

Wolves have managed to stop the rot that saw them lose seven games on the trot in December and January. It came far too late though as the Midlands club are still a long way from contending for a play-off spot. Worse yet for Wolves, their young midfield star, Jed Wallace, has been ruled out for the remainder of the season with a thigh injury. Kenny Jackett will be looking a strong finish to the season from his side as he focusses his attention on the next campaign. Ipswich Town, like so many other teams in the league, had a woeful run which saw them slip from the automatic promotion places right down to eighth. That said, they’re still well positioned to make an assault on the top six, but they’ll need to win at least five of their remaining eight games. In Mick McCarthy, they have a manager that has been in this position before and knows exactly what it takes to win promotion to the Premier League. They have more than enough quality to put Wolves to the sword – back the away team at 19/10.

13/10 Rotherham | 22/10 | Leeds 21/10 (16:00)

Rotherham have been sensational of late, clawing their way out of the relegation zone with four wins and a draw in their last five games. They’re one of the form sides in the league at the moment and look destined to spend another season in the Championship. They’ve recently claimed wins over the likes of Sheffield Wednesday and Middlesbrough as well as coming back from 3-0 down to earn a point against Derby County. They’ve peaked at the right time, and if they can claim a few more wins, they should survive quite comfortably. Leeds have had another strange season under the guidance of chairman, Massimo Cellino. They currently occupy 13th place on the table with 11 wins, 14 draws and 12 losses. The results are not nearly good enough for a side who made it to the semi-final of the Champions League less than 15 years ago. Leeds haven’t set the world alight and will struggle against an invigorated Rotherham side. Back the Millers at 13/10.

9/4 Bolton | 23/10 | Reading 12/10 (16:00)

It’s been a season to forget for cash-strapped Bolton Wanderers. The Trotters have endured a nightmare campaign in which they’ve only managed four wins in 38 games. Fortunately, however, Dean Holdsworth – a former Bolton centre-forward – and his Sport Shield Consortium have effected a takeover of the club. They look doomed to relegation though, and can’t play the likes of Jay Spearing as it will trigger a clause in his contract where Bolton will have to pay a 100, 000 Pound fee to Liverpool, something the club just can’t afford at the minute. Reading haven’t had the greatest of seasons either. They’re in no immediate danger of going down while they don’t have a hope in hell of challenging for the promotion places. They’re winless in three games at the moment, however that should change this weekend. Take Reading to claim all three points against a massively depleted Bolton side.

17/20 Fulham | 26/10 | MK Dons 29/10 (16:00)

This looks as though it could be one of the weekend’s more interesting games. Fulham currently sit in 21st position on the table, one clear of the MK Dons who occupy the third and final relegation place. The Cottagers are winless in six and look in real danger of being relegated if they aren’t able to start picking up wins soon. The Dons will view this match as the ideal opportunity to get out of the bottom three. In fact, they could move all the way up to 20th if other results go their way and they claim the win. The side will be bolstered by the arrival of Burnley defender, Kevin Long on an emergency loan deal until the send of the season. Fulham are favourites here, and for good reason too. However, calling games like these where the stakes are so high is an absolute nightmare. That said, the draw does look mighty attractive at 26/10 – get on!

7/10 Hull City | 51/20 | Bristol City 17/4 (16:00)

Hull City have endured a bit of a torrid few weeks winning only once in their last six games. The dire run of results have seen them slip to fourth on the table and well outside of the automatic promotion places. They have an excellent opportunity to get back to winning ways against a Bristol City team who are looking stronger and stronger as their season drags on. The Robins have been excellent of late, winning their last two matches and opening a six-point gap between themselves and MK Dons who sit in 22nd place. They won’t have it easy on Saturday, however, as they come up against a well-rested Hull City team who will be desperate to get back to winning ways. Both sides have shown good attacking intent this season, but I think Hull are just too good a team to go down at home against City. Take Hull on the Matchbet + Both Teams To Score: Yes at 3/1.

14/10 Huddersfield | 9/4 | Sheffield Wed. 37/20 (16:00)

Huddersfield Town are benefitting from the coaching expertise of new manager David Wagner. The former Borussia Dortmund coach is trying to build a winning culture within a club that has settled for mediocrity far too often. He looks to be getting the most out of a very limited squad who sit 16th in the Championship, eight points clear of danger. They will welcome Sheffield Wednesday to John Smith’s stadium who are hell-bent on winning promotion to the Premier League after an extended absence from the top flight. They’ve been good of late, winning their last two matches and probably didn’t need the international break to happen when it did. The Owls should prove too strong for a brave Huddersfield side who have struggled to keep clean sheets this season. Wednesday for the win at 37/20.

24/10 Charlton Athletic | 47/20 | Birmingham 11/10 (16:00)

Charlton Athletic have really struggled this season with their fans turning on Danish owner Roland Duchatelet in the last few weeks. They don’t really stand much of a chance of surviving this season as they’re currently six points off safety – it looks as though League One football will be back at the Valley next season. There have been a couple of encouraging results of late, like their 2-0 win over Middlesbrough, but unless they can recreate that form week in week out, they’re doomed. Birmingham City are another one of the clubs looking to claim a place in the play-off spots. They’ve been solid this season and have always hung around the upper echelons of the league. They will need to start picking up a few wins soon if they really want to push for promotion – two draws and a loss in their last three simply isn’t good enough for a team looking for promotion. Take Birmingham to win at 11/10 here.

12/10 Nottingham Forest | 23/10 | Brentford 22/10 (16:00)

The wheels have come in spectacular fashion for Nottingham Forest and their fans. The team was one of the early pace setters in the Championship and looked well on course to fight for a promotion spot. Fast forward to March and they find themselves languishing in 16th position having won only one of their last six games. They are currently under the caretaker tutelage of Paul Williams until the end of the season. The side have been flat and unimaginative for the last few months and that looks set to continue. Brentford are currently on a dire run of form that has seen them win just once in their last nine games. They simply haven’t been able to fill the void that Andre Gray left following his departure for Premier League bound Burnley. The Bees are also likely to be without Josh McEachran for the remainder of the season after the midfielder broke a bone in his foot. Both sides are struggling for form at the moment – the draw looks like the most likely result here – 23/10 is good value.

31/20 Cardiff City | 43/20 | Derby County 18/10 (16:00)

The final game of our preview takes us to South Wales where promotion-chasing Cardiff City go head to head with fifth-placed Derby County. The Bluebirds have recovered from a minor mid-season hiccough and now looks as though they’re ready to lay siege on the top six. While their squad isn’t the most talented on paper, they’ve still put in some excellent performances this season and are full value for their place on the table. Derby County have also somewhat recovered from a poor run of form which saw them slide out of the promotion places altogether in February. They’ve managed to turn things around, although not really convincingly. Still, they occupy fifth place on the log, have scored a boatload of goals and don’t concede very many – everything you look for in a promotion chasing side. This is one of those games that could either explode into life early on or be about as entertaining as watching grass grow – I’m leaning toward the latter. Back the draw at 43/20.

Written by Jason Dewey

Championship Picks

Brighton BTTS 21/20
Blackburn WIN 21/20
Ipswich Town WIN 19/10
Rotherham WIN 13/10
Reading WIN 12/10
Fulham DRAW 26/10
Hull WIN + BTTS 3/1
Sheffield Wednesday WIN 37/20
Birmingham WIN 11/10
Nottingham Forest DRAW 23/10
Cardiff DRAW 43/20